86 A SEARCH IN SECRET EGYPT
noticed that the fowl no longer looked at the magician but had turned its beady eyes in my direction, a direction which it never thereafter changed.
And then I observed an extraordinary thing. The little creature's breathing became laboured and heavy; each breath came in a sharp gasp, while the beak was never once closed, as though the bird were constantly engaged in a struggle to get air.
The magician had placed his kabbalistic paper on the floor nearby, slowly he retreated until he had withdrawn from the room and stood in the open doorway, where he began to mutter his strange spells, intently watching the fowl all the time. His half-chanted incomprehensible words, uttered in a most commanding tvoke, gradually swelled in tone and were followed by the slow decline of the bird into a half-lifeless state.
At last, the animal weakened to such an extent that its legs gave way and it sank to the floor, though it was still able to maintain the upright posture of its body. Two minutes passed and then, even this became impossible. It turned over on its side and stretched itself out on the floor. And then its spirit revolted against its doom; it made a tremendous effort to struggle on to its legs again, only to fall back exhausted. Another couple of minutes passed and it made a convulsive gesture, moved its body in spasmodic jerks and fluttered its feathers feebly. Thereafter, its movements lessened until they finally stopped. The flesh became stiff, the head became rigid, and I realized that the warm little creature which I had brought from the bazaar only a half-hour ago was now a corpse. I stood up, speechless at the amazing sight. There was a sickly feeling in my heart.
The old man asked me to place my handkerchief over its body. He said impressively:
"The magic has been successful. Henceforth the genie who destroyed the life of this fowl as a sign that he was ready to serve you, will work for your benefit. Sometimes when I have practised this the fowl does not die, which is a sign that the genie refuses to help the person."
My uncanny host had persistently kept his eyes bent upon the floor, a fact which I had noted throughout the ceremony. His next remark offered a peculiar explanation of this fact.
"When I say my spells to evoke a genie, and when I command it after it has been evoked, I never look at it. That is one of the rules which must be obeyed. But the sacrifice is not yet